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Why choose Sky Islands?
SKY ISLANDS’ TEACHERS & STAFF:
A summary of school personnel teaching background experience and/or resumes are available upon request. Please contact the school directly.
Sky Islands welcomes Ron Hennings as the new Head of School. Ron brings 44 years in public school administration, with 20 years as Superintendent of Schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Arizona. He has also served as Elementary Principal, High School Principal, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Assistant Superintendent, and is a licensed K-12 Principal and Superintendent.
Ron concurrently serves at Prescott College as the Coordinator of the M.Ed.-Principal Certification Program. Ron’s wife, Joy Graves, BSPH, BSN, MPH, is a Navajo Scholar and Indigenous Rights Advocate. Joy is the daughter of William McCabe, Original Marine Codetalker and Congressional Gold Medal recipient. Joy and Ron have raised sheep on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, so look for the return of sheep to Sky Islands!
Prior to joining joining Sky Islands, Karen Flores most recently worked in the UA’s Department of Medicine finance office. Karen received her BSEd secondary education degree in history and social studies, summa cum laude, from NAU in 2006, and her MEd in Human Relations from NAU in 2012. She taught 7th grade social studies at TUSD’s Utterback Middle School, and was NAU’s Extended Campuses’ Program Coordinator for 8 years. In addition Karen provided administrative support at Christensen Elementary School in Flagstaff for 10 years, as well as admin support for the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council, the Coconino Engineering Company, and the City of Flagstaff.
In addition to Karen’s administrative background and secondary education certification, she is a 2008 graduate of the AGTS Supervisor’s Academy and the Intel Lean training program in 2014. Karen has also been a Literacy Volunteer tutor, and is trained in CPR, First Aid, and AED. When not at Sky Islands, Karen’s life is filled with her three dogs and her family, including her grandchild in Flagstaff; with reading and gardening, cooking and listening to music as well as playing the flute.
Allie has been with Sky Islands since 2014, bringing a field studies component to our project-based science program as well as helping direct the restoration ecology projects. Allie has a BS from the University of Washington in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, attended the Teton Science School in Wyoming, and has received her Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Prescott College. She has taught at the Academy of Math and Science in Tucson; Gann Academy in Massachusetts; and Aspen Community School in Santa Fe, where she created the school garden. In Seattle Allie helped coordinate the Dream Project among high school students and worked with the children’s garden— Seattle Tilth. Her experience extends to Israel, where she apprenticed at the Hava v’Adam Ecological Farm. As a field science teacher, Allie provides a strong focus on site ecology, place-based and experiential coursework. She was responsible for coordinating the watershed project as part of the C2E grant award. Allie’s work in Santa Fe is presented in the book “It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden”. Allie is an avid hiker, rock climber, and camper and you could possibly run into her on a Tucson trail or, if lucky, backpacking across the United States!
Before coming to Sky Islands, Tucson native Kortnee Schnell most recently worked as program support/automated data processing applications coordinator for the Chief of Staff/Deputy Chief of Staff at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. Kortnee graduated from Northern AZ University in 2007 with a BSBA extended major in management. Outside of Sky Islands, Kortnee enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, daughter (a graduate and valedictorian of Sky Islands), and their four dogs.
Lukas is a founding teacher at Sky Islands and has been instrumental in developing the science curriculum and the integrated educational program over the years. He has two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder in American Studies and Ethnic Studies, and is a certified science teacher. He is a graduate of a renowned experiential learning and project-based high school in Denver, and taught integrated science classes in charter schools in Tucson for 3 years prior to joining Sky Islands. Lukas is responsible for developing the astronomy and astrobiology, enthnobotany and food biology, ecology and regional ecosystems, and earth science courses, as well as the cactus garden, the desert tortoise habitat and many outdoor projects. Lukas has also taught a variety of social studies classes over the years, including sociology, US/AZ history, and Native American, East Asian and African history classes.
Lukas is a proficient speaker of Japanese, conversational Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, as well as various southern African languages. He is a master gardener and has introduced students to organic, healthful foods. Expect his classes to go outside and bring the outside in— science at Sky Islands will open your eyes and minds to our living world, and especially the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.
Leighton Jeffy joined the Sky Islands’ staff in 2019. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Leighton is a 2007 graduate of the University of Arizona, with a B.A. in English Literature and a B.A. in Creative Writing. In 2009 he received Secondary Education English Certification at Pima Community College. Most recently Leighton was the Language Arts teacher at The Rising School, where he taught composition and grammar, creative writing and literature, and literary and rhetorical analysis. He has also taught Language Arts at Satori Middle school and at BASIS Tucson, each for 4 years.
When not in the English classroom, Leighton travels – from age 17 on, he has spent over a decade living and traveling extensively in Egypt, India, South East Asia, and has spent time on a Kibbutz in Southern Israel. Those journeys make their way into his classroom and bring Language Arts alive with the peoples and stories of the world. Students can expect to take a creative part in a Poetry Potluck, a project-based approach to learning English, and a symbolic journey through literature.
Joseph came to us in 2017 from Washington D.C., where until recently he was a Senior Policy Advisor for the Undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Education, and Senior Advisor for Higher Education at the White House Executive office of the President. He has worked as a Senior Counsel in the Office of Congressman Grijalva, and for TICAS, The Institute for College Access and Success in D.C. Joseph has a B.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Arizona, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law School. He spent one year in Taipei, Taiwan on a scholarship at Shi-Da University to learn Mandarin.
Prior to his Washington D.C. work, Joseph taught at Presidio High School in Tucson, where he was Department Head and teacher in Language Arts and History. He also taught an Introduction to Law class at Ballou High School in D.C. as part of the Georgetown Law Clinic. Joseph brings great depth and experience to the Language Arts classes at Sky Islands, designing and building real-world content literacy strategies into grades 10-12 curriculum. Another side of Joseph—he is a student and instructor of ballet, jazz, and modern dance.
Joseph’s work as national advisor for Higher Education has prepared him to advise Sky Islanders about the process of college enrollment, grant and aid applications, and career choice.
Sky Islands welcomes Matthew Taylor back to the Sky Islands family! A native Tucsonan, Matthew is a graduate of Reed College in Oregon, with a BA in mathematics. In 2008 he received his J.D. from the University of Minnesota, and was a practicing attorney from 2008-2011 in Pima County. He then spent 5 years in Northern California working at Green Gulch Farm, an organic farm in Marin County. In addition, Matthew is an experienced high school math teacher, most recently at Sky Islands, and prior to that in the Sunnyside district.
As an undergraduate math major at Reed College, Matthew learned to see mathematics as a strong component of the liberal arts, and a model of clear reasoning through the study of patterns and structures. In addition to the four core math areas, his senior Tech Math class will include an emphasis on programming using Python. Welcome back to the Sky Islands community!
Amy Wood joined Sky Islands in 2019 as our full-time arts teacher. Amy has a BA from Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA, where she majored in studio art, concentrating in painting and printmaking. She studied art and art education at Teachers College, Columbia University in NY, and graduated with MA and teaching certification, K-12. Additionally, Amy studied landscape architecture at the University of Arizona, where she learned about sustainable environments, water harvesting and desert plant and animal life. She also worked as a project manager at the UA Drachman Institute.
Amy taught middle school art at the Central Park East Secondary School (CPESS) in East Harlem, NYC, a school founded in 1995 by Deborah Meier, an innovator of small schools that focused on building relationships between educators and the families/communities. Amy was a teaching artist in learning centers in Manhattan, teaching exploratory, multi-media art programs to public school children around the city. At one center, she worked with the children to create and install a ceramic mural in an outdoor playground space. Amy has also been the studio teacher at Second Street Children’s School in Tucson, a Reggio-inspired school, and has traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy, on a Western States’ educators study tour. Our art program is back in color!
Sky Islands is lucky to welcome Breeze as our new culinary arts teacher and lunch chef. Breeze has over ten years of experience in culinary arts, kitchen management, and recipe development and is certified in food safety. She is a plant-based chef who specializes in whole food and ultra-healthy, nutrient-dense food creations. Breeze also has extensive restaurant and catering experience and previously operated her own seven-acre organic farm-to-table restaurant, Vegetableland. She attended the University of Southern Indiana.
Breeze’s experience and background in local, plant-based, and organic cuisine is the perfect compliment to our own Blue Sky Café and farm-to-kitchen program. In addition to her skillset, Breeze also brings a warm, welcoming, and lighthearted approach to teaching that makes plant-based cuisine a blast!
Sky Islands is most happy to welcome David Rollins this year as the new urban horticulture teacher and watershed educator. He came to the Southwest to work as an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Tucson Village Farm, where he honed his understanding of dryland plants, community outreach, and water harvesting in the Sonoran desert. Pacific Northwest raised, David is a recent University of Oregon graduate. There he studied the intersections between anthropology, environmental sciences, and civic agriculture.
During his time in Eugene, he trained at the UO Urban Farm, led trail crews with the Northwest Youth Corps engaged in restoration management along along the Oregon Coast, co- taught gardening courses at the Laurel Valley Educational Farm. When not gardening, David is an avid cyclist, photographer, reader and forager of both the botanical and mycological realm.